Synthesis and Application of Modulated Polymer Gels

Science  28 Jul 1995:
Vol. 269, Issue 5223, pp. 525-527
DOI: 10.1126/science.269.5223.525


A class of environmentally responsive materials based on the spatial modulation of the chemical nature of gels is proposed and demonstrated here. The modulation was achieved by limiting the interpenetration of part of one gel network with another gel network. The gels so produced have an internally heterogeneous or modulated structure. Three simple applications based on the modulated gels are described here: a bigel strip, a shape memory gel, and a gel "hand." The bigel strip bends almost to a circle in response to a temperature increase or an increase in solvent concentration. The shape memory gel changes its shape from a straight line to a pentagon to a quadrangle as the temperature increases. These transitions from one shape to another are reversible. The gel "hand" in water can grasp or release an object simply by an adjustment of the temperature.